Monday, 5 May 2014

'Ah yes, I remember it well'

'I can remember everything as if it were yesterday...' So begins a song from the film Gigi when Maurice Chevalier (such a beautiful, romantic French accent) sings a duet with Hermione Gingold as a pair of old, long-lost lovers. Of course, in the song, she corrects his every recollection and so it often is with memories shared over 30 years. We may get the details wrong but the emotion, the spirit of the moment - that is what matters.

We're on our way back from Barcelona sitting in the airport waiting to board - an airport which incidentally packs a lot more style into every square foot than the whole of Leeds Bradford could ever aspire to - after our 30th wedding anniversary trip. It's been, well, brilliant. Thirty years ago this morning we threw in our lot together and no matter how certain you may feel at that moment, there is always that unspoken element of risk. We had no idea what life would throw at us - and it has actually thrown quite a lot - and how much more than the sum of our two parts we would become. 

Before we left home I rootled out our wedding albums - the formal one of ourselves, parents, family, ushers and bridesmaid. And then the unposed ones of some of our guests in the other album. How could we have known what lay ahead for them and us? So many family and friends no longer with us, partnerships broken, contact lost. But it was a wonderful day - not all-singing, all-dancing like weddings are now. A lunch, a few speeches and toasts and a quick change into the going away outfit (by Louis Feraud - who else!) and away to Windsor for the first night of our honeymoon. Incidentally, my beloved could plan a trip even back then: Windsor, Paris, Mauritius - the latter still being my favourite place on the planet. Yes, if I can only have one more holiday before I pop my clogs, that's where it's got to be.  

A couple of weeks ago, I didn't expect to be going anywhere this weekend and my only suggestion had been that I wanted to go somewhere further than the Hare and Hounds for dinner - no disrespect, John; but I'd have very happily settled for the Crown at Roecliffe or the Crab and Lobster. Anyway, my beloved asked where I would like to go away for the weekend and I tried to construct a list of places to suit a range of time and pocket constraints, bearing in mind A levels are just around the corner. And Barcelona was in there along with the Lake District, Venice and Cornwall, amongst others - I like to be eclectic! And Barcelona it was. 

We've been here before, nine years ago, on the day that the then Pope died causing Barcelona to close down in the manner that one would expect in a staunchly Catholic city in a staunchly Catholic country. So there was some unfinished business although we'd already had a great time - tapas, jazz clubs, shopping and sightseeing. And this time, unbeknown to me - and I realise this sounds unlikely - the ATP tour was in town, Rafa and all. So in our four-night sojourn, we've crammed in a day's tennis-watching including a brilliantly nail-biting match between two Spaniards - Rafa Nadal and Nicolas Almagro - with a very vocal and enthusiastic Spanish crowd, some shopping, eating and drinking on an epic scale, a few trips down memory lane, otherwise known as the incredibly narrow and twisting alleys that lead from Las Ramblas and a visit to the one place we especially wanted to see last time and missed due to the Papal demise - La Sagrada Familia. 

 Rafa - sometimes it's hard to tell him and my beloved apart! 

La Sagrada Familia is quite simply one of the most awe-inspiring buildings I've ever been inside. I always marvel at our ancient cathedrals, built and evolved over perhaps a hundred years apiece, wondering at the death toll that it probably took to build the lofted ceilings and fine carving dozens of feet above our heads. But to see a modern basilica growing and developing over a similarly long period, always dressed in scaffolding and netting and yet a breathing temple of light and colour is extraordinary. What sharp contrast to our own hasty post-war construction of the likes of Coventry Cathedral. Though Coventry rose rapidly and proudly from the ashes of the Blitz and is a mighty and impressive building, La Sagrada Familia is a living thing of light, movement, colour and is the seemingly endless ambition to fulfil the dream of a man now long-dead yet living on through the construction of his grand plan. In some ways, it reflects too the designs and tastes of the other architects and craftsmen who have worked on the building since Gaudi's death but it is ultimately the embodiment of his beautiful dream. We will return, because I am sure that in a few years it will hold new treasures yet to be crafted. 

The beautiful ceiling of La Sagrada Familia. 

If La Sagrada Familia, and, by contrast, the ATP tennis were new experiences, yesterday's celebration of our thirty years together was on familiar territory. We had stumbled upon Agua, a restaurant on the beach at the rather glitzy Marina, on our last trip. The memory of the superb meal, feet in the sand yet against the backdrop of the cool, chic interior had stayed with us and it was here that we shared a great meal, ate and drank too much, chatted over our thirty years of reminiscences and friends and family. Special. 

Post-script. Apart from our great meal at Agua, we tapassed our way round Barcelona choosing delicious treats by pointing at whatever took our fancy on the bar top and counting cocktail sticks to total up la quenta. Making me, despite the large scale consumption of the accompanying Rioja, a very cheap date! 

 Me and him 30 years on...

My very cute bridesmaid thirty years ago - Camilla! 

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